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Books and Documents

Islamic Culture

The Islamist War on History
Arshad Alam, New Age Islam

The Islamist War on History
Arshad Alam, New Age Islam

Historical sites associated with important personalities in early Islamic history have made way for public lavatories and luxury hotels. Mecca today is all set to become a consumer’s paradise; in this consumer city, Muslims will be able to consume the Hajj the same way they consume burger with coke. In short, there is no room for reflection, an interior dialogue with one self which was the sole point of this pilgrimage, rather it is being replaced by an air conditioned Hajj where you could look down at the Kaaba from your suite in one of the many hotels which would eventually dominate the skyline and eventually engulf (and perhaps eclipse) the House of God.. .....

 

Yet as the film progresses from Sharma’s personal essay on the inner struggles of a gay Muslim to a political examination of Wahhabism’s hardline manipulation of contemporary Islam, audiences witness firsthand his intimate struggles of uncertainty and self-doubt against the backdrops of religious extremism, commercialisation and sectarian battles – all of which continue to poison modern understanding of Islam for Muslims and non-Muslims alike....

Happily Ever After
Amin Valliani

Happily Ever After
Amin Valliani

Allah says in the Holy Quran that it is “He who has created man from water, then He established relationships of lineage and marriage. …” (25:54). Relationships in human societies are formed mainly by way of marriage. Therefore, individuals celebrate weddings in all societies. They consider marriage an event of special significance in their lives....

 

The U.S. Muslim Honor Brigade Strikes Again
Asra Q. Nomani

The most puritanical interpretations of Islam require veils. The Deobandi school of thought, the driving ideology of the Taliban, militant groups and strict orthodoxy in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, requires full-face veils for women, as does the Wahhabi and Salafi schools of thought exported to the world from Saudi Arabia. My mother’s family required she wear the face veil as a woman....

Angst over Armenia
Aijaz Zaka Syed

Angst over Armenia
Aijaz Zaka Syed

Muslims in the Subcontinent share strong cultural and historical ties with Turkey thanks to the long Muslim and Mughal rule in India. The founder of the Mughal dynasty, Babar, was of Turkish stock and wrote his fine memoirs, Tuzk-e-Babri, in the language that came naturally to him – Turkish....

 

Pakistan Culture: Evolution, Transformation and Mutation
Nadeem F. Paracha

It described Pakistan Ideology to mean a country that was inspired and driven by the ‘Islamic character’ of the Pakistan society and an idea that eschews secular and ‘Westernised’ influences in the country and replaces them with an ‘Islamic culture’ and an ‘Islamised polity….

 

Turkey’s 'Rocker Imam' Inspires Turks
Mustafa Akyol

The Rocker Imam seems to be a figure who appeals to these not-so-conservative-but-religious Turks, and even fully to those who are nonreligious but appreciate spirituality. Tuzer's lyrics are filled with references of the love for and compassion of God, which has more appeal to these Turks than the fear from and wrath of God. Other modern Islamic figures who have gained popularity in the past decade — such as Sufi sage Cemalnur Sargut, philosopher-theologian Caner Taslaman and activist and thinker Ihsan Eliacik — also point to the same niche in Turkish society for a more liberal and cosmopolitan interpretation of Islam....

 

Ghalib, With Angels as His Muses
Farahnaz Zahidi

A Long Play (LP), or a 33 1⁄3 rpm vinyl record, that my father had bought from a trip to London was titled “Lata sings Ghalib”. Often, Abba would play it and make me sit and listen. It was like a punishment for me. I didn’t understand why Abba wanted to listen to something so sombre with such difficult words. He tried to explain the lyrics to me, and told me tales of how he had heard Lata Mangeshkar sing some of these Ghazals live at the Royal Albert Hall in London. But as a seven-year-old, I thought Abba’s going to London and buying that LP was a very unfortunate thing, after all, I could have used the same time playing Pacman on my Atari video game. Years later, studying Ghalib for my grade 10 Urdu exam, I thanked Abba. And thanked my eldest brother who, when I entered my teens, gifted me a Deewan-e-Ghalib…

 

Along with being a political worker and a journalist, Hasrat was not only also a poet but a humanist one at that too. In his verse, he has included the autobiographical elements so subtly and powerfully that the reader will find themselves absolutely absorbed; it becomes the reader's story......

 

Pakistani Novelist Intizar Husain: An Escape from Ideology
Intizar Husain

Intizar’s characters reply: “But haven’t you read the history of the Muslims?” In Panchatantra, Geedars (jackals) dunked themselves in false colours to appear as lions and presumed to produce a regimented society with stiff laws, but are discovered as Geedars and not the kings of the jungle they pretended to be. He applies the Geedar simile to the progressives who wanted to usher in revolutions and to the fundamentalists who wanted to induct literature into jihad….

 

“Like the Maulanas, Hindu pundits also used to declare fatwa. Urdu was the language of the times, so it was used in them. Every fatwa refers to a Hadith, so this one also begins with one written in Urdu by a Maulana. It is followed by a Pandit answering the Maulana by referring to a Shloka from the Ramayana in Devnagiri before pronouncing the judgement.” Indicating the date written on top of the fatwa, he says laughing, “This one is before Ghalib.”.....

 

Peer, who I have a fleeting memory of in rediff.com’s office, strokes the script with unflinching scenes of terror and tension that afflicted the population of Kashmir, caught in the crossfire between militants and army. I haven’t read his acclaimed Curfewed Night but I do recall this heart-breaking diary, which offers a disturbing glimpse of the horror he encountered personally. He even appears in a brief cameo doing what may seem amusing at first but is mostly a painful reminder of scars left on a tortured psyche.......

 

The liberal democratic system allowing individual freedom of speech, freedom of expression etc. is fine, but there must be limits to such freedom, particularly when there is an undeniable tendency to take advantage of it. If Sharia Law is attempted to be introduced surreptitiously under the guise of religious freedom, then such attempts should be considered to be thwarted; otherwise bigger problems may arise in future which may threaten the very fabric of the society.....

 

Ibn-e-Safi, the Man:  Stranger Than Fiction
Nadeem F. Paracha

I don’t anymore though, outgrowing the fantastic sounding cities and countries full of quirky spies, strange gadgets and racy plots that Safi offered in his novels, making him one of Pakistan’s most popular and best-selling Urdu novelists of all time.....

 

Shahid Sajjad:  A Study in Bronze
Irfan Husain

It is unsurprising that art has little place in a society as racked by violence and as warped by greed as Pakistan is today. Artists, too, are marginal figures unless they are good at self-promotion. And Shahid Sajjad was the very antithesis of a pushy person blowing his own trumpet: modest to the point of becoming a recluse in his last few years, he let his work speak for itself.....

 

Mehdi Hasan may not be with us, but his repertoire will continue to enthrall music lovers in all times to come……

 

12 Songs from Pakistan’s Mountains, Deserts, Shrines and Streets
Nadeem F. Paracha

Interestingly, though both, the 20th century secular Pakhtun nationalists, as well as the more religious and conservative expressions of Pakhtun identity, celebrated the Pakhtun culture’s militaristic tenor, Pakhtun folk music is remarkably romantic and poetic in nature, with the singers mostly voicing sagas of longing for their beloveds (who are in some foreign land), or for the mountains and rivers of the Pakhtun lands that the singer misses.....

 

He had come from Bombay where he had been leading a hard but fruitful life for twelve years. In the preface to his collection of short stories titled Yazeed, Manto mentioned that he considered Bombay his Doosra Watan – after Amritsar where he spent his boyhood and early youth – and called himself Chalta-Phirta Bambai. “Wherever I stay, I’ll make my own world.”....

 

Women, Urdu and Bollywood
Aijaz Zaka Syed

It’s not possible to disagree with the argument that if Indian Muslims are at the bottom of the heap in many ways, their women are at the bottom of this bottom. I could understand why my friend was appalled though. The expression employed was crude even if candid.  The Progressive Writers’ Movement, to which Kaifi belonged, tended to use such strong language to shock and awaken the sleepy social conscience…..

 

Pahela Baishakh: Beyond Kurtas and Saris
Afsan Chowdhury

Baishakhi is a festival of harvesting and commercial year launching. It has been in Bengal and in many parts of India since the time of Akbar the Mughal during whose rule the revenue system was reorganised. It’s the time of renewal, promises and inclusion of all in a socio-economic system. It’s therefore a festival without religious overtones….

 

It could be argued that these fine Islamic arts are more advantaged nowadays in Turkey, blossoming along with the recent spiritual revival in the country. Anyone visiting or living in Turkey nowadays is certain to encounter the different genres of these fine arts of Islam. This is clear from many examples of Turkish architecture in the form of mosques and former palaces, great poetry….

 

Sufi Music Makes Comeback in Iraq
Amal Sakr

When reading or hearing about Sufi music, one immediately imagines a “spiritual session” during which Mouwashshas (a form of classical Arabic poem) are sung, as Sufi music in Iraq is linked to the Kasnazani order — known for their performances involving “whirling dervishes” — in addition to the Qadiri order. During their evening performances and religious occasions, Sufis usually recite poems and beat drums to create rhythm. ....

 

Shah Abdul Latif:  The Voice of Love
Sadia Dehlvi

The young poet fell in love with the daughter of Mirza Mughal Beg, a proud scion of the Afghan rulers. Although Shah’s family happened to draw their lineage from the family of Prophet Muhammad, there was a difference in the social status of the families. The ruling family was aristocratic, while the Shahs came from a family of mystics. In 1713, robbers assassinated Mughal Beg and decamped with all his riches. Reduced to poverty, the Mirza family eventually agreed to give their daughter in marriage to Shah, who had by then gained fame as a poet…..

 

The 10 Best Pakistani Political/Social Parody Songs … Ever!
Nadeem F. Paracha

Aziz Mian was the wild man of Pakistani Quawwali. Long-haired, almost always sloshed on his favourite brand of whisky, and punctuating his Quawwalis with sudden spoken-word interludes that he would shout out as if he was having an argument with God and the conservative clergy. Though the Sabri Brothers too came from the same Sufi-music background as Aziz Mian, they were more subdued and harmonious in their approach towards their music.....

 

Dhaka: The Enduring City
Milia Ali

Beneath Dhaka's unattractive façade lies a compassionate soul. The city and its people have a great ability to accept and adapt. From a quaint town of the '70s it has transformed into a bustling city -- reinventing itself to accommodate the rapid changes. But, despite all its urbanisation Dhaka still retains touches of its rustic self… The other day I was shopping in Gulshan 2. A hawker sitting with his basket of Dhaka cheese offered me a big chunk. When I told him I had no cash left on me he said: “Aapa, please take it, you can pay me tomorrow....

 
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